Google releases Android 8.1 developer preview with Neural Networks API

Ahead of a mass release in December, Google's Android 8.1 beta introduces Neural Networks API, Android Go optimizations, and more.

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Image: Jason Cipriani/CNET

Google on Wednesday released the Android Oreo 8.1 developer preview, ahead of the mobile software's release to the public in December.

The developer preview is only compatible with the Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Pixel C, Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL. It can also be downloaded and flashed to your device or loaded through the Android emulator.

Google detailed in a blog post Android 8.1's new features:

  • Android Go memory optimizations and targeting: Includes a set of memory optimizations for Android Go configurations (1GB or less of memory).
  • Neural Networks API: Enables hardware-accelerated inference operations on supported devices. Google designed the Neural Networks API as a foundational layer for ML frameworks like TensorFlow Lite, Caffe2, and others.
  • Autofill enhancements: Google claims it's made it easier for password managers and other Autofill services to use the Autofill framework.
  • Shared memory API: A new API that enables apps to allocate shared memory for faster access to common data.

What looks to be the biggest part of the update, the Neural Networks API will likely allow the new Pixel 2 to take advantage of the "Pixel Visual Core" SOC that isn't enabled yet. It will enhance Google's photo apps and eventually will allow third-party photography apps to take HDR+ quality images.

The Android 8.1 beta can be download over-the-air by members of the Android Beta Program or through the Android website. Google said the first release is a beta "with APIs" and promises a second beta sometime in November.

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